Compliments of the Season (1930)

US / 13 minutes / bw / Warner Bros., Vitaphone Dir: Arthur Hurley Scr: Paul Girard Smith, E.K. Nadel Cine: Ed DuPar Cast: Eric Dressler, Lenita Lane, Weldon Heyburn, Pat O’Brien.

A short movie with some protonoirish overtones and, as the title suggests, a great deal of seasonal interest.

Eric Dressler as Jimmy.

It’s Christmas Eve in New York and pickpocket Jimmy “Fingers” Dugan (Dressler), not long out of stir, is doing his best to go straight. When he encounters a young woman (Lane) who’s just about to throw herself off a bridge, he pulls her back. Turns out she’s come to the city in search of Continue reading

snapshot: Murder in a Small Town (1999 TVM)

US / 92 minutes / color with some bw / A&E, Granada, Fred Berner, Crystal Sky Dir: Joyce Chopra Pr: Fred Berner, Craig McNeil, Steven Paul Scr: Gilbert Pearlman, Gene Wilder Cine: Bruce Surtees Cast: Gene Wilder, Mike Starr, Cherry Jones, Frances Conroy, Deirdre O’Connell, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Elisabeth Rosen, Matthew Edison, Carlo Rota, Terri Hawkes, David Fox, Ben Bass, Terry O’Quinn, Kate Hennig, Sten Eirik, Fulvio Cecere.

It’s 1938 in Stanford, Connecticut, and the new movie you’ve just got to see is ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (1938) dir Michael Curtiz, and starring James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Pat O’Brien, Ann Sheridan and the Dead End Kids. (We see a brief clip from this movie.)

Gene Wilder as Cash Carter.

Until nine years ago, when his wife was murdered in NYC, Lawrence Carter (Wilder) was a hugely successful Broadway producer—hence his nickname of “Cash”; now he’s living in relative seclusion as director of the Stanford Repertory Theater. When a rich, antisemitic, homophobic local businessman, Sidney Lassiter (O’Quinn), is gunned down one night, no one sheds too many tears. As the victim’s unloved, unrespected wife Martha (Conroy) coldly remarks, Continue reading

Crack-Up (1936)

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Peter Lorre and Brian Donlevy, top secret plans and espionage!
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US / 71 minutes / bw / TCF Dir: Malcolm St. Clair Scr: Charles Kenyon, Sam Mintz Story: John Goodrich Cine: Barney McGill Cast: Peter Lorre, Brian Donlevy, Helen Wood, Ralph Morgan, Thomas Beck, Kay Linaker, Lester Matthews, Earle Foxe, J. Carroll Naish (i.e., J. Carrol Naish), Gloria Roy, Oscar Apfel, Paul Stanton, Howard Hickman, Robert Homans, Sam Hayes.

An odd little pre-war espionage movie whose downbeat ending and occasional callousness toward human life—plus the presence of Lorre—give it something of a noirish credential.

The Fleming–Grant aircraft factory, owned by mainspring John P. Fleming (Morgan) and his partner Sidney Grant (Matthews), has completed construction of a new plane, the Wild Goose, which has the extraordinary ability to transport a consignment of passengers across the Atlantic. (This was, you’ll remember, 1936.) Fleming plans to take it on its maiden flight from the US East Coast to Berlin, with pilot Ace Martin (Donlevy) and mechanic Joe Randall (Beck). The naming ceremony, emceed by broadcaster Sam Hayes (himself) and with Fleming’s wife, Lois (Linaker), doing the stuff with the bottle of bubbly, is attended also by Continue reading

Hell’s House (1932)

US / 72 minutes / bw / Astor Dir & Story: Howard Higgin Scr: Paul Gangelin, B. Harrison Orkow Cine: Allen G. Siegler Cast: Bette Davis, Pat O’Brien, Junior Dirkin (i.e., Junior Durkin), Junior Coughlin (i.e., Frank Coghlan Jr), Emma Dunn, Charles Grapewin, Morgan Wallace, Hooper Atchley, Wallace Clark, James Marcus, Mary Alden.

Hell's House - 1 Young Jimmy helps with the laundry

Young Jimmy (Junior Durkin) helps Mom with the laundry.

After seeing his widowed mother Lucy (Alden) die in a hit-and-run, 14-year-old country boy Jimmy Mason (Dirkin) comes to the big city to throw himself on the mercy of his aunt and uncle, Emma (Dunn) and Henry Clark (Grapewin). They goodheartedly take him in, but Henry has just that morning lost his job so things look grim. However, the Clarks’ fast-talking lodger Matt Kelly (O’Brien) takes the boy under his wing, even offering him a job at $25 a week just to answer the phone at Kelly’s scabby center of operations. Unknown to Jimmy and the Clarks, Kelly’s business is as a Continue reading